Sunday, September 28, 2014

Daily Drops (Big Cottonwood Marathon)

I went to the General Women's Meeting last night and Sister Linda K. Burton's talk (HERE)  made me think of how much living the gospel is like running a marathon in many ways.  I have been reflecting quite a bit about my last marathon experience lately mainly because I was so let down I didn't reach my goal that I had set for myself and partly because I was really doubting my ability to do so before even attempting it.

I really want to qualify to run the Boston Marathon.  Ever since I have been running (almost 8 years now), I have looked in admiration at the runners I knew who were fast enough to actually qualify and never thought it would be even remotely in my reach - not even in a million years.  I didn't consider myself in that league in any way shape or form.  To me they were always the ones who were born with the gift of speed and their standard of running was just so fast that it was way out of reach for me.  I felt that they ran at a higher standard than I was capable of.  I was just content to admire their skill and be happy for their accomplishment of making it to Boston.  I never dreamed it could ever become a reality for me.

Until May of this year.

I ran the Ogden Marathon and knocked 23 minutes off of my previous marathon time.  I was beyond thrilled!  I was surprised even though I did train really hard for that race for almost five months and I followed my training schedule religiously, so I was hoping I would do well, just didn't think I would do that well.  My finish time was 4:14 and in order for me to qualify for Boston I needed a 4:00.  14 minutes.  Doesn't sound too tough, but trust me, even a single minute is hard to cut off when it comes to a full marathon.  BUT . . . it was now in reach!  I knew if I worked really hard, I could cut off 14 minutes.  So I signed up for the Big Cottonwood Marathon because it is touted as a fast course and many BQ (Boston Qualify) at it.  I ran the half last year and while watching the full racers cross the finish line that day and seeing so many reach a BQ, I thought I would possibly attempt it the next year.

Training for it this summer proved to be much harder than I anticipated.  Getting up at the crack of insanity to get in a long run before it gets too hot, was tough, as was the discipline required to run my training plan religiously.
Actually, I was usually out and running on long run days by the time set on this alarm.
 I used to love running in the heat until last summer when I got heat exhaustion and now the heat really gets to me.  It was a hot summer this year and even though I didn't follow my plan to a tee, I did my best.  I didn't do my 20 miler long runs as well as I did when training for Ogden, but I did what I could.  I was feeling a little burned out as well.  The course had changed in a not so good way (much harder) than last year and last year's was tough according to those that ran it.  So come race day, I told my husband (and myself) to not expect a BQ.  I also took the pressure off of myself to get one.  I still wanted to finish with a PR (personal record), but I was relieving myself of the BQ pressure.  I just wasn't having very many great runs and my speed wasn't near what it had been before Ogden.  I had a back injury this time and that forced some time off too.  Overall, I just wasn't sure it was going to happen.  So, pressure off!

On race day, I did decide to start out with the 4:00 pacers though and keep with them for as long as I could.  I actually ran ahead of them most of the downhill because I knew if I got behind them I would get very discouraged.  I wanted to be able to stay positive the entire course.
I tried to stay just a little ahead of the 4:00 pace group.
Still feeling strong!  (And cold!)
With Adrian, the 4:00 pacer.  This was when I was starting to pace a bit behind them, but they were still right in front of me.  He had to make a pit stop and he is trying to get to the other pacer to grab the pacing stick.
I was so happy Adrian was one of the pacers.  I love that guy.  He makes me laugh and he has a lot of wisdom about running smart.  I knew if anyone could help me get there, it was him.  Sounds like I still had some hope doesn't it?   The honest truth is, I will ALWAYS have hope. About mile 13 or so, I was talking to a woman who was also pacing with the 4:00's who looked about my age and so I asked her if she was trying to BQ that day.  She said that she was and that she had flown in from Oklahoma with three friends to run it.  We chatted more and discovered we were the same age.  She asked me if I knew that particular day was the "magic day" for a BQ?  I asked her to explain and she said that if we BQ today (and only today) then we get to run Boston in 2015 AND 2016!  And then she went on to say that since we will be 55 at the time of Boston 2016, that we could BQ that day for 2016 with an extra 10 minutes (our qualifying time when we are 55 is 4:10) because we will be 55 that year.  Okay, that made me ecstatic!  I had an extra 10 minutes I hadn't planned on to BQ!  After hearing that info, I really thought it was possible!  I was so thrilled!
The only problem was, if I had known that when the race started, I would have paced myself totally differently and started with the 3:55 pacers.  I didn't dare do that originally because I didn't want to go too fast at first and then bonk after the downhill. But knowing what I do now, I think if I had done that, I could have crossed that finish line at 4:10.  I actually would have had to cross it at 4:08:58 in order to be accepted to Boston (this year anyway - that may change by next year depending on how many apply.) Not everyone that BQ's gets in.  They go with the fastest of each age division until no spots are left.  This year you had to beat your qualifying time by 1:02. Sounds tough, but I think it was doable if I was shooting for 2016.  For 2015 I would have needed a 3:58:58. Ouch!
Still feeling good?  Or just faking it?
Some of the uphill during the out and back.  Those 8 miles were NOT fun!
I hung with the 4:00's until close to mile 15 when the downhill ended.  Not only did it end, but we got to endure some serious rolling hills almost right after the downhill was over.  That first large hill was formidable!  I don't usually walk in a race, but I really had no choice with that hill.  Nearly everyone around me was walking up it - you never see that in a marathon.  It was just too much after all that downhill for our legs to transition so fast.  But, I kept pushing as hard as I could.  I did not give up once.  I did feel some keen disappointment as I watched the 4:00's get ahead of me on that hill.  I kept trying to remind myself of all the training I had done and to trust in it. I had technically been training for this since January.  It wasn't perfect training, but it was a lot of miles and more than I had put in for my first two marathons.  I kept telling myself to trust in the training.  I know training pays off.  One day at a time.  One step at a time.  It just wasn't quite good enough for me to reach my goal.  The out and back part of the race was brutal.  There is no other way to describe it. And not just for me.  Every single person I talked to, every single blog post I have read, every single FB post, every single finisher I talked to after, all agreed that it was B R U T A L!  I also found out that those that had run it last year all said this course was 10 minutes slower than last years.  I kind of wish I hadn't heard that.  Do you know what that means?  If they hadn't changed the course I would have qualified!  I finished with a 4:17 time!  SEVEN measly minutes shy of a 2016 BQ!  I was pretty let down, but at the time I was just so glad I was done running and that it was over, that I didn't really care at the time.
Very glad I was done, even though my face isn't showing it.  I look like crap because I was feeling like crap.  And I also had the worst neck ache for the last 11 miles and I now know why because in all my pictures I was holding it up in a weird way.  I had no idea I was doing it while running and I have no idea why I was doing it.
With Adrian the 4:00 pacer.  He is one awesome pacer!

Now that I have had time to think about it and ponder over it, I am seriously let down that I didn't make it.  Mostly for the fact that now it means I have to train again and keep running marathons until I DO qualify.  UGH!  I am not ready to give up on my goal.  The day of the race, I had decided to maybe check into running as a charity runner for Cystic Fibrosis because that would mean a lot to me as well, but deep down I want to run it because I earned it, because I was good enough to run it.  But I haven't totally thrown the charity idea out the window.  Running for CF would be so inspiring to me!
The real motivation for me to qualify and run it is because my friend Shauna lives in Maine and she really wants me to run it so she can cheer me on across the finish line.  She told me to please sign up and run Boston.  She didn't understand that you can't just sign up and run Boston.  You have to earn Boston.  I have some of my high school buds who have also said they would take the trip over with me and cheer me on.  Now that is motivation if anything is!  Just knowing you have someone waiting at that finish line is sometimes the thing that gets you to the finish line!   This was my first marathon my husband and boys were not able to make it to the finish line.  They had unavoidable conflicts.  So I had no one I knew cheering me on as I crossed.  But that was okay.  I was just so thrilled I crossed!  There are no words to describe that feeling.  No words.  I always get so emotional and so elated that I actually did it and just so relieved I am done!  I think about that moment for almost 26.2 miles.  The moment I can stop running and rest!  hah  This year I also got sick once I finished.  I was very nauseated and dizzy.  I am pretty sure I was dehydrated.  I really didn't drink like I needed to and it got extremely hot during those last 10 miles.  I need to hydrate better so I can avoid that next time.

I am hoping someday I will be able to actually say I qualified.  I don't know if it will ever happen, but I am an optimist and so I am going to stay positive.  Running is such a fragile thing and you never know what is going to happen with your body and injuries.  I just hope this old bod of mine hangs on for a bit longer so I can.
So in a nutshell, running Boston is like the Super Bowl for runners.  If you run Boston, it means you have earned it. Not everyone who tries to qualify does.  Many try each year.  One of my good friends ran 18 marathons trying to qualify!  She finally did last year and missed getting in by 13 seconds!  They have raised the standard higher by only accepting a limited amount of runners and so not even those that do qualify are guaranteed an entrance.  Only the fastest of the qualifiers get accepted. 

So how does all this relate to Sister Burton's talk and the gospel? Well, since you are still here (amazingly) after this marathon post, I will tell you.  Hang in there, you are almost to the finish line!

Sister Burton said because Latter-day Saints come to the temple to receive eternal blessings, it should not surprise them that a higher standard is required to qualify for those blessings.  “World-class athletes and university doctoral students spend hours and days and weeks and months and even years of preparation,” she said. “Daily drops of preparation are required of them to come out on top. Likewise, those who wish to qualify for exaltation in the celestial kingdom are expected to live a higher standard of obedience that comes by practicing the virtue of obedience day by day and drop by drop.”
Going to the temple requires a higher standard just like getting into Boston requires a higher standard.  Not everyone who runs a marathon will be accepted into Boston and not everyone who is a member of the church will be admitted into the temple.  Only those that qualify.  Qualifying is hard work.  It requires daily training.  Daily discipline in order to meet those tough standards.  It means a lot more when you know you have worked hard to earn that privilege.  It's not just something that is handed out to everyone. 

Same thing with qualifying for exaltation.  Not everyone who is a member of the church and not even everyone who is a temple recommend holder is going to qualify to get into the Celestial Kingdom (CQ = Celestial Qualify).  It requires even a higher standard.  Only the best of the best will make it to that level.  You could call that making it to the Super Bowl of heaven☺or the Olympics of running. It's going to be tough to get to that level.  Really tough.  But it is doable.

We are probably going to have days when we will look at others and think that we are not in their league.  We are not as spiritual as they are.  We aren't as good as they are and we never will be.  We weren't born with their gifts.  We might even think it will be easy for them to qualify, but so much harder for ourselves.  But if we really want to qualify then we are going to have to work extra hard even though things may not have been going so well or going according to our plan, and even then, our course may change along the way and we may think it's unfair that our course is harder than someone else's course.  We may even get injured (from sinning) along the way and have to change our plan.  And most likely our training will not go perfectly.  We may get to the point where we would rather just take the pressure off and give up the hope of a CQ.   But, like Sister Burton said, if we practice the virtue of obedience (like daily training) day by day and drop by drop, we will qualify.  It won't be easy and we will have times when we just want to let go of the dream, but if we keep following the plan (the commandments) then we can. 

The best part of the gospel is that just like my friend Marci who had to run 18 marathons to qualify, we will never be told we can't make it as long as we are willing to keep trying and keep training (practicing obedience).  And when we come up short - even when we are so close - there is ALWAYS hope that no matter what we do or don't do, we have a loving and forgiving Heavenly Father who will forgive us and give us as many chances as we need to finally get it right and qualify.  He is our personal pacer and He will never give up on us.  He will encourage us and be there for us whenever we need his support.  He gives us hope when we are discouraged.  He knows we can do it.  We can always rely on Him for help.

And just imagine what crossing THAT finish line is going to be like?  All of our family and friends that have already finished the race will be right there cheering us on!  What a feeling that will be knowing that we earned it after a hard fought fight.  That alone makes all the training and practicing worth it!

And best of all, a CQ lasts forever... for eternity.  

Something else to keep in mind along the way!
The other post I wrote on the Big Cottonwood Marathon is here.


Audrey said...

What a beautiful post! I love how you used the marathon analogy to get to the celestial kingdom (but thank goodness I don't have to run marathons to get there!) I am so impressed at how dedicated you are in working to achieve your goal. You rock!

Dawn said...

I think all we can do is our very best...which is different each day. We need to give ourselves credit for all that we are doing and not be so hard on ourselves for not doing as well as we think we should. I have learned or truly believe that our best is good enough!

I know you will BQ because you are doing your best and never give up. I love this post and the correlation...very good!

Nancy Mc said...

I love your analogy. So many times we want something, but are not really willing or ready to do what it takes to get it. (Drops of oil)
I think the change of the route for the marathon affects runners in a way that the planners of the marathon may not even consider. I know you work hard and train hard to get your BQ. I hope it happens for you.

Jodi said...

Thank you girls! You are all so supportive! Love ya all!


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